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Top of the Lake: Episodes 3 and 4 

Photo Credit: Sundance Channel/Parisa Taghizadeh
Photo Credit: Sundance Channel/Parisa Taghizadeh

We’re just over halfway through Top of the Lake, and boy, howdy are they layering the mysteries.

Last week’s episode was a backgrounder on Mitcham, where we found out that his drug business exists underneath his house (accessible through the false floor of a guest room shower) and we follow one of his sons as he goes on a psychotropic sampler bender. While this is going on back home, Matt makes a weird sort of peace with the ladies at GJ’s and even take’s Anita home after romancing her in his own way.

Robin’s mom drops the bomb on her that she’s abandoning treatment because her cancer has spread, which sends Robin off to rekindle her relationship with Johnno. First, he approaches her for a tryst in the bathroom at the bar and she doesn’t push him away and later she pursues him until they wind up in bed together back at her house. There are hints that they dated as children but you get the idea this part is new.

On the Tui investigation front, Robin’s lead suspect, the pedophile, is found strung up in a tree, a supposed suicide that nobody would ever believe was a suicide. But no progress in made toward finding the girl. A few uneasy moments where graves are discovered, only to yield animal remains, are as close as we get. Robin also meets GJ, who tells her that the investigation will bring her to her knees.

Last night’s episode was a tour de force for Elisabeth Moss and essentially her Emmy reel. Robin arrives for dinner at Al’s and a few glasses of wine into the evening, she unravels as Al picks at the scab of her own assault and suggests that maybe that’s what’s got her so wrapped up in Tui’s case. She peels back the layers as she tells him (and us) that she was gang raped at 15 and later bore a daughter (he knew the first part but not the second).

She tells him that her mother made her carry the child to term and then adopt her out and the girl had recently contacted her. She says she can imagine nothing worse than finding out that she was conceived in a multi-party rape, so she has not responded to her daughter. Al tries to settle her that the boys were punished, via a series of physical attacks at the hands of the cops and Matt, but Robin isn’t mollified because a) they were never prosecuted and b) the entire police force knows what happened to her. Pretty quickly the combination of emotions and booze have her passing out and waking up the next morning in Al’s bed (nothing happened, but she’s still horrified and angry).

Later, when one of the rapists (Sarge, who we met in episode 2) tries to chat her up in the bar and obviously has no recollection of who she is, she melts down and shanks him with a broken beer bottle and would likely kill him until Johnno drags her, feral and screaming, out of the bar and drops her in the drink to cool her down. When she goes into work the next day, Al tells her to go back to Australia, that she’s off the case. She responds by putting her badge and gun on his desk.  He also finally puts it out there that nobody believes Tui can possibly still be alive in that weather.

Johnno comes to find Robin and she tells him she’s unemployed and unattached, having finally surrendered her engagement. Johnno seems to welcome the opportunity to start fresh with her. As they settle in at her dad’s, and she avoids her mother, who now wants to meet her granddaughter and has asked Robin to stay out of Laketop because it’s affecting her mental state, their bliss turns to something darker when Robin finds a picture of them together at the dance from the night she was raped. We start to see flashbacks of that, and then Johnno starts to tell her something he hasn’t,  and which she doesn’t remember, and the idea of where that conversation is going scares her enough that she asks him to stop. (My guess–he was an unwilling party to the rape or he stood by and did nothing).

Matt takes Anita home and brutalizes her and the other women at GJ’s, after ramming his truck into the fence while Anita is scaling it to let him inside. They get him out of there and attend to her injuries but we don’t revisit them again.

On the investigative front, Robin follows Tui’s friend, Jamie, as he goes out onto the lake but loses him once he’s out on the water. He buries something on the other side of the lake and comes back home and then Robin sort of questions him, at his mother’s request, but doesn’t really get anywhere. Note: Jamie’s mom works for Matt; this may end up being relevant later.

Then Robin is called on by a pathologist who thinks there’s more going on locally that needs to be investigated. He tells her about a young girl killed six months prior who was drugged and seemed to walk in front a truck in a daze. She goes to the marker on the road and then finds herself in a daze, also walking in the road.

And that sets us up with three more episodes to go.

Everybody is doing such good work. There are moments that are emotionally raw and hard to watch, but the performances are just mesmerizing. I’m serious when I say Elisabeth Moss will have a nomination. I don’t see how she couldn’t.

If you’ve missed an episode, Sundance Channel marathons the first four Sunday evening beginning at 7/6c. Episodes 5 airs Monday at 10 pm/9c. You can catch sneak peeks of it on the Sundance Channel site.

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